Olga and Luis Cordero embody the “American Dream.”
Since arriving from Guadalajara, Mexico 28 years ago, the couple had four children, all born in the United States. They also own a jewelry store in North Hollywood and a home in Sun Valley on income derived from cleaning homes and laboring at fast food restaurants, sometimes holding two jobs at a time and working seven days a week.
“We’ve never had a vacation. This country has given us a lot of opportunities and we’ve moved ahead with perseverance. Because if you work hard and persevere, you will get what you want,” Olga said.
The Corderos also embody the often complicated situation of many immigrant families. Despite their business acumen and their four U.S.-born children, they are undocumented.
Several years ago they tried to legalize their situation with the help of a notario (notary) that fleeced them for several thousands of dollars, and did such a poor job — telling them to apply for a program they did not qualify for — that Olga ended up being detained by immigration authorities for nearly two weeks. They are still appealing their case.
The Corderos exemplify the type of people who would benefit from DAPA (Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans and Permanent Residents), one of the immigration programs that was part of the Executive Order announced by President Barack Obama last November. The order also included an extension of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) for all people, regardless of age, who had come into the U.S. before they reached age 16.
Both programs would benefit an estimated 5 million undocumented people currently living inside the United States.
And both programs remain on standby after U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Texas blocked their implementation, siding with a lawsuit brought by 26 states that argued Obama’s action was unconstitutional because it amounted to a change in immigration law. The Obama administration appealed the ruling and it is now in the hands of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.
Last week that court held a hearing on what could be a long and drawn out legal battle that some fear could extend beyond Obama’s time in office.
A Congressman Visits
U.S. Representative Tony Cárdenas (D-Panorama City) visited the Corderos’ home on Monday, April 20, to showcase their immigration struggles, which he said is shared by thousands of other immigrants whose lives are in limbo while the courts decide on DACA and DAPA.
“Even though they’re not from this country, they’re Americans,” Cárdenas said of the Corderos, whom he praised for their entrepreneurship. “They are giving much to the local economy.”
The congressman, who grew up in Pacoima to parents who worked in the agricultural fields, said many people have the misconception that immigrants come to take jobs away from U.S. citizens and to ask for help when that is not the case.
“They (the Corderos) work harder than some Americans,” Cárdenas said.
“The United States is the greatest country in the world. And if we’re going to keep moving ahead, we need to accept immigrants who come here to work hard and provide ideas, and fix our immigration system,” the congressman added.
Cárdenas said that many parents in a situation similar to the Corderos — who are in the country illegally — must be given the chance to stay here with their U.S.-born children, who are suffering because of this situation.
“Those children are U.S. citizens and must stay in their country with their parents,” Cárdenas said.
He said he’s confident the government will win their case in the courts.
“I hope we’re successful. I think in two to three months we’ll see the judges deciding that the President’s actions are correct.”
Not Giving Up
The Corderos, who were anxiously awaiting for the DAPA program to legalize their status, said they are hopeful.
“We didn’t want DAPA, we wanted an immigration reform, but we had to accept the little piece of the cake,” Olga conceded.
She said she encourages her three children of voting age — Luis, 25, Cristina, 22 and Jennifer, 18 — to always vote. They also have a younger daughter, Jackie, 16.
“I teach them to speak for us,” said Olga, who was invited to attend President Obama’s State of the Union speech in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives in January.
Luis said immigration reform would help them achieve even more than they already have. They dream of opening other jewelry stores.
”A lot of people are just waiting for an opportunity. I think [immigration reform] would help a lot of people to advance more,” he said.
“You’re living in fear, always hiding, it’s uncomfortable. If they gave us that opportunity, many people would take advantage and come out ahead.”
In regards to the court battle on immigration actions, Olga said she’s become more determined to fight for reform.
“If someone puts an obstacle before you and you fall, you have to get up with more resolve and keep fighting,” she said.
She said she’s going to attend this year’s May First immigration marches in downtown Los Angeles. A protest is planned that afternoon from Chinatown to the Federal Building.
“The immigration reform is not dead. We just have to fight more (to get it),” Olga said.